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Properties of Acids

Properties of Acids

Acids are exceptionally reactive compounds which we find in our every day lives. They usually share the following properties.
  • A characteristic sour taste;
  • ability to change the color of litmus paper from blue to red;
  • react with certain metals to produce gaseous H2 ;
  • react with bases to form a salt and water.
Common household acids include vinegar, lemon juice and automobile battery acid. In their weaker forms they can add a sour taste to our food; in their stronger forms they are corrosive agents which can burn skin, and be used to etch or dissolve metal and even glass.

Examples of acids found in the either the laboratory or the work place include:
  • Hydrochloric Acid: Also known as Muriatic Acid, this is a highly corrosive acid and is often used to clean calcium carbonate build up from the inside of kettles or from around water faucets and from shower heads;
  • Sulphuric Acid: This is a common acid in both the laboratory and industry. It is both highly corrosive and economical to manufacture, which makes it the reagent of choice for many applications;
  • Phosphoric Acid: This acid is used to remove rust and rust stains from metal tools and from car bodies undergoing repairs;
  • Nitric Acid: This is another common laboratory acid used as a reagent in many chemical tests and experiments due to the fact that almost all of its products (salts) are soluble in water;
  • Hydrofluoric Acid: This acid is extremely corrosive and has the unique property of being able to etch (eat away) glass. Consequently it is used in industry to write signs on glass windows in stores and office buidings or on glass products.
The key to understanding acids is to note that acids and solutions of their salts all conduct electricity. This implies the existence of charged particles that migrate under the influence of an electric field. Acids are are acids by virtue of the presence of an excess of hydrogen ions in the solution, Their salts are created when the positive hydrogen ions are replaced with positive metal ions, for example when HCL reacts with Sodium (Na) to produce NaCl with the release of H2 gas.

Here are some common acids and the ions which they dissociate into when they enter into solution.

hydrochloric acid: HCl --> H+ (aq) + Cl- (aq)

sulfuric acid: H2 SO4 --> H+ (aq) + HSO- (aq)

acetic acid: H3 CCOOH --> H+ (aq) + H3 CCOO- (aq)

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